Inadequate Safety Equipment

Attorneys in White Plains Helping Injured Clients

Construction workers are routinely exposed to significant dangers on site. They may work at heights or below ground or near dangerous equipment. Construction employers should provide workers with appropriate safety equipment to minimize the threat of catastrophic injuries. If you were harmed as a result of inadequate safety equipment at a construction site, you should discuss your situation with the White Plains construction accident lawyer Mark A. Siesel. You may be able to file a lawsuit for damages.

Inadequate Safety Equipment

New York has enacted special rules to protect construction workers doing their jobs under certain conditions. Often construction workers are at the mercy of their employers when it comes to dangerous conditions at the project. Workers’ compensation doesn’t cover the full scope of serious injuries.

Labor Law section 240 and section 241(6) cover specific kinds of work and allow workers to recover damages from construction entities. Although both laws may be invoked in connection with inadequate safety equipment that causes injuries, they are distinct rules, each with a different scope of protection for workers.

New York Labor Law Section 240

New York Labor Law 240 is a strict liability statute that protects workers who are working at elevations. Under this law, all contractors, owners and their agents are supposed to furnish or erect scaffolding, hoists, ladders, stays, hangers, slings, pulleys, blocks, irons, braces, ropes and other safety devices in order to provide proper protection to someone employed in certain activities at elevation. The duty to provide these protections is nondelegable.

You may be able to recover compensation if you weren’t provided with safety equipment or if the construction company didn’t make sure workers used proper equipment and, as a result, you were injured. Speaking to an attorney can help you understand your rights. For instance if your boss was supposed to but failed to provide you with a scaffold or personal protection equipment such as a safety harness while painting a building, and, as a result, you fell and suffered paralysis, you may be able to sue for damages under Labor Code 240. A property owner or contractor won’t be held liable if it can show the accident was solely the result of your own negligence. In other words, you can be barred from recovering damages if the accident is 100% your fault; your damages will not be reduced by an amount equal to your degree of fault if you were less than fully responsible. In addition to defending itself by claiming you are the sole legal cause of the accident, a defendant can try to use what’s called a recalcitrant worker defense. Under the recalcitrant worker defense, the defendant won’t be held responsible if (1) you had adequate safety devices available, (2) knew that the safety devices were there and that you were expected to use them, (3) chose not to use them for no good reason, and (4) you wouldn’t have been injured if you’d chosen to use them.

New York Labor Law 241(6)

Labor Law 241(6) applies to construction, demolition and excavation. Under Labor Law 241(6), all areas where demolition, excavation, and construction are being performed are supposed to be equipped, shored, constructed, equipped, arranged, guarded, conducted and operated so as to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to those working there. Contractors and owners can be liable for accidents caused by inadequate safety equipment when such accidents occur under their control or supervision. For example, if a demolition site is not adequately equipped with safety gear, the contractor that controlled the demolition site could be held responsible.

However, the code section goes on to say that the commissioner can make rules to carry out safety under Labor Law 241(6); owners, contractors and agents on a construction project need to comply with the safety provisions of the New York State Industrial Code. The Industrial Code includes highly detailed rules about the arrangement and operation of construction sites, as well as the safety equipment on it.

An owner or contractor may be held liable where inadequate safety equipment violates the Industrial Code rules and causes injuries. For example, when employees are required to work close to the edge of a dangerous opening, they are supposed to be protected by an approved life net that should be installed not more than 5 feet beneath the opening, among other things. The life net is supposed to be big enough and strong enough to catch and hold anyone for whose protection it is being used; it is supposed to be made of fire-resistant first grade fiber cordage, woven fabric or synthetic fabric and have a mesh that’s not more than 4 inches. If the life net that’s used at your construction project was made of an improper material and had a mesh that was 7 inches, and, as a result you were injured, you would be able to sue under 241(6).

However, unlike Labor Law 240(1), there is no absolute or strict liability under 241(6). Your damages can be reduced by your comparative negligence, and the defendants may try to blame you for your own injuries.

Consult a Lawyer in White Plains

If you were harmed by inadequate safety equipment at a White Plains construction site or other site within the Hudson Valley or boroughs of New York City, you should consult experienced attorney Mark A. Siesel. We represent clients in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as Westchester, Putnam, Kings, Orange, Dutchess, Sullivan, Rockland, and Ulster Counties. Call us at (914) 428-7386 or complete our online form.

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